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Customers rally for local business in food contest
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Tracy Cox, co-owner of Dippers Homemade Ice Cream, holds samples of her Peanut Butter Bang Sundae on Monday as she stands with Jennifer Doss, tourism director with the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp., outside of Dippers on U.S. 220 South. (Bulletin photo)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

A pep rally of sorts was held Monday at Dippers Ice Cream in Ridgeway to celebrate its Peanut Butter Bang Sundae making it to the top two in the Virginia Tourism Corp.’s Culinary Madness Challenge.

Monday was the final day to vote online in the competition to find Virginia’s favorite food dish. The other finalist was Nana’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken from the Cyprus Grille in Hampton.

The winner will be crowned the “Virginia is for Lovers Culinary Madness Champion” today, according to a news release and officials.

The scratch-made Peanut Butter Bang Sundae includes a chocolate cake cup filled with Peanut Butter & Brownie Explosion ice cream and topped with hot fudge and peanut butter sauces, according to a news release and information on the Virginia is for Lovers website.

After sampling the sundae at the event Monday, Louise and David Brickey and their daughter, Karen Easter, all of the Sanville area, said they planned to vote for it later on Monday. All three mentioned they like peanut butter. Richard even eats peanut butter and tomato sandwiches, he said.

“It’s very delicious. Everything is good blended together,” Easter said of the sundae.

Louise Brickey agreed. “I just love anything with peanut butter.”

“It’s super delicious. It has a great flavor,” Richard said.

“I will be back” again for Peanut Better Bang Sundae, said Rebekah Rakes of Collinsville after sampling it.

“I loved it,” said Franchone Hairston of Axton after giving the sundae a try.

According to a company fact sheet, “In 2012 Tracy and Rodney Cox and their son Andrew purchased a mobile food trailer and opened up Dippers Ice Cream.”

They served Homestead Creamery Ice Cream at that time, the sheet said.

It added: “In 2013, the Cox family began experimenting with producing their own custom flavors of ice cream. After realizing that they were on to something big, the family began planning an expansion which included a new, larger facility at a permanent location.”

Since Dippers opened at its current location at 4970 Greensboro in Ridgeway, the business has provided 10 new jobs, according to the fact sheet.

Tracy Cox said Peanut Butter Bang Sundae’s success in the Culinary Madness Challenge has been “a tremendous opportunity for Dippers.”

At the beginning of the contest, Dippers’ sundae was one of 76 dishes from around the state entered in the competition. Dippers made it through four rounds of public online voting to get to the finals.

Similar to the NCAA Championship’s last four rounds, Culinary Madness Challenge had a Savory Sixteen, Enticing Eight, Flavorful Four and Championship Round In a series of head-to-head voting challenges broken down into traditional bracket-style fashion.

Once it was in the top 16, Dippers' sundae defeated Tommy Leggett’s York River Oysters (from Waypoint Seafood & Grill in Williamsburg), Black and Bleu Medallions (a blackened filet with toppings from The Tavern in Abingdon) and Spring Harvest Virginia Faux (a traditional Vietnamese entree from Crooked Billet - Landsdowne Resort, in Leesburg) to get to the Championship Round, according to information on the Virginia is for Lovers website.

Tracy Cox said that during the competition people within the area, outside the area and even people on vacation have visited Dippers. She wished to thank customers, the Martinsville Henry County Economic Development Corp. and the Virginia Tourism Corp. for their support.

Jennifer Doss, director of tourism for the EDC, said it’s not only a story of success for Dippers, but shows “the great resiliency of our community.” She pointed out that Dippers was competing against some restaurants in much larger cities. She said the competition is “a wonderful marketing tool for the community,” especially in attracting “foodies,” or people with a particular interest in food.

“The Culinary Madness competition is giving communities an opportunity for Virginians to celebrate local chefs across the commonwealth,” Rita McClenny, CEO and president of Virginia Tourism Corp., said in a news release.

“I think it will give a sense of pride to have a local business in a statewide culinary competition,” said David Neudeck, marketing director for the Virginia Tourism Corp., who was at Dippers on Monday.

The Virginia Tourism Corp. will promote the top four finishers in the competition on the Virginia is for Lovers website and through social media, and the champion will get extra recognition, Neudeck said.

A Virginia is for Lovers truck was on hand for photos at Monday’s event. There were giveaways, prizes, corn hole, and free samples of the sundae were given.

Doss estimated 110-115 people came during the two-hour event, a good percentage of them people who had not been to Dippers before. Regardless of whether Dippers wins the championship, the fact that a business “from our small town has gone this far” in the competition is something for the community to be proud of, Doss said.


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